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REDUCE Single Use Plastic and local thai alternatives to take to the market

This link to a detailed PDF about the issues and Phuket.


the plastic bag




tata young supports reducing single use plastic bags on Phuket, way to go!


Plastic bag facts

  • Approx. 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. That’s more than 1,200 bags per US resident, per year.

  • Approx. 100 billion of the 380 billion are plastic shopping bags.

  • An estimated 17 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.

  • Only 1 to 2% of plastic bags in the USA end up getting recycled.

  • The typical plastic grocery bag is manufactured from polyethylene, a byproduct of petroleum and natural gas – both nonrenewable resources that create more greenhouse gases and increase our dependency on foreign oil. The energy used to make about 9 plastic bags is equivalent to the energy it takes to drive a car one kilometer, or more than half a mile!

  • There are no free plastic bags! The cost of plastic bags is 3-5 cents buried in the purchase price of your groceries or consumer goods. Then, there is the clean up cost for plastic bag pollution… One study found that the cost of cleanup amounts to 17 cents a bag in the USA, that translates to the average taxpayer paying about $88 per year on plastic bag waste – What a waste!

  • Thousands of marine animals and more than 1 million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution.

  • The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.

  • Plastic bags are often mistakenly ingested by animals, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. Other animals or birds become entangled in plastic bags and drown or can’t fly as a result.

  • Even when they photo-degrade in landfill, the plastic from single-use bags never goes away, and toxic particles can enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals.

  • Greenpeace says that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from getting entangled in or ingesting marine debris. Nearly 90% of that debris is plastic.

  • Americans consume more than 10 billion paper bags per year. Approximately 14 million trees are cut down every year for paper bag production.

  • Most of the pulp used for paper shopping bags is virgin pulp, as it is considered stronger.

  • Paper production requires hundreds of thousands of gallons of water as well as toxic chemicals like sulphurous acid, which can lead to acid rain and water pollution.


They invade our homes, lurk in our backyards, wander our streets, swim in our ocean, float down our rivers and streams, and find shelter amongst trees and bushes.  They are found in the most populated and the most remote places on Earth.  They need no resources to persist and may indeed outlive the human race.  We cannot ignore them, we cannot escape them and we cannot destroy them.

So what can we do?  We can stop producing them.

Single use plastic grocery bags are the most widely distributed product in the world.  The average family accumulates hundreds of plastic bags per year without realizing the harm single use plastics cause to humans, animals, and the environment.  In fact, it is estimated that, world-wide, approximately one billion plastic bags are used every minute!  It is easy to think of plastic bags as free, abundant and disposable tools for improving our quality of life.  They are in fact environmentally expensive; one cost is that both land and ocean animals die from entanglement or ingestion of plastic bags.  They are persistent; plastic bags can take up to 1000 years to photo-degrade (break up into small pieces), and do not ever biodegrade.  And they reduce our standard of living; plastic bags disrupt our appreciation of nature’s pristine landscapes.  More significantly, they clog storm drains, increasing the chance and severity of flooding during rainy seasons.

The overwhelming prevalence of plastic bags on Earth has created a problem so extensive that many countries around the world are taking action to prevent plastic bag distribution.   As early as 1988 environmentally minded people realized the costs of single use plastic bags far outweighed the benefits.  By 1998, thirty Alaskan villages banned the plastic bag.  Now, in 2011, multiple countries in Africa including: Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa have banned the plastic bag.  African countries are not the only ones catching on: Bhutan, Brazil, Italy, Macedonia and Taiwan have all instated plastic bag bans.  Multiple cities in the United Kingdom, France, India, Canada, Australia and the United States have also officially banned plastic bags.  And those are just the places that have prohibited plastic bag distribution.  Many other countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Israel and the Netherlands, have implemented a plastic bag tax to slow the proliferation of the bag.

There is clear evidence that taxes and bans do reduce the amount of single use plastic bags in the environment.  In 2002 the government in Ireland introduced a plastic bag fee called PlasTax. The law resulted in a 90% reduction in plastic bag consumption, a huge reduction in plastic bag litter and a significant decrease in oil use. Individual corporations and companies have proven that they can make a difference too. Whole Foods Market banned plastic bags on Earth day in 2008 and has since estimated that reusable bag use tripled in just one year!


In California in 2007, San Francisco jump started the bag-ban trend in the United States.  Upon learning that plastic bags cannot legally be taxed in California, San Francisco became the first city in the state to pass a full ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags in major grocery stores and pharmacies.  Since San Francisco’s legendary decision to ban the bag, a cascade of anti-bag campaigns aiming to eliminate single use plastic grocery bags have swept through California.  A few other California cities that have effectively “banned the bag” include Malibu, Fairfax, Palo Alto and San Jose.  In November 2010, Los Angeles County passed a plastic bag ban affecting unincorporated areas, but as the ban is not applicable to LA cities, the cities are currently working for bag bans independently.  On January 25th 2011, Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that will ban plastic bags and charge a five cent fee for paper bags beginning in 2012.  Also in late January, Santa Monica approved a ban that will be enacted in September of this year!  Calabasas joined the many cities striving towards sustainability by eliminating plastic bags in February.  Most recently, Albertson’s in Carpinteria has agreed to run a pilot program that will test the practicality of banning plastic and paper bags from all Albertson’s stores.  Albertson’s is not the first corporation to take this approach. 

Although battles are being won at the local level, the opposition is not going down without a fight.  Oakland, Fairfax and Manhattan Beach have all met major resistance by the American Chemistry Council, the main proponent of single use plastic bags.  The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, as well as the Coalition to Support Plastic Bag Recycling have both filed and won lawsuits against the cities, claiming that the bans were passed without sufficient Environmental Impact Reports.  While plastic bag bans enacted by Oakland and Manhattan Beach are currently ineffective due to this complication, Fairfax avoided being sued by passing a voter initiative to ban plastic bags. 

Small-scale successes have given us the hope and the knowledge essential for large-scale change.  Although Californians’ previous campaigns for a statewide ban have failed, defenders of the environment are not giving up.  The movement away from single-use plastics and towards sustainable practices is continually gaining speed. Education campaigns and recycling programs are steps in the right direction, but statistics have shown they are not enough to change shoppers’ behavior. Experience is telling us that in order to get results, make the plastic bag a valuable commodity, or get rid of it.

At Ocean Futures Society we support banning single use plastic bags because we stand behind the principle, “There is no waste in nature.”  This means that in nature everything is recycled in one way or another. Even the harmful chemical defenses of plants and animals are naturally broken down in to harmless raw materials that become available for reuse in another form. With this valuable lesson from nature we conclude that we should only produce materials that can be easily rendered harmless after use and then become raw materials for another use.

We strongly believe it is crucial to stop producing disposable plastic bags that create waste neither humans nor nature can adequately dispose of.   There are more environmentally friendly materials that can be used to carry our groceries and belongings. We are not against the use of durable plastic for long-lasting products, it just does not make sense to use a plastic bag for ten minutes to carry our groceries and then throw it away, liberating it to linger on our planet for thousands of years. We are smarter than that. But it takes a willingness to create change. We need to rise up the challenge and support those companies and cities that are moving in the right direction; the direction we need to follow so we can all enjoy a more sustainable future.

Jean Michel Cousteau


Common concerns about living a plastic bag free life


  1. What are the benefits of reusable bags?

  • a much lower life cycle impact than any single-use bag

  • able to hold around twice as many items as plastic bags

  • easier to carry as they have more comfortable handles

  • won’t burst under the weight of heavy shopping items such as tins or soft drinks

  • reduce the number of plastic bags that are produced, recycled and disposed of

  1. What will I line my trash can with?

  • Use other types of bags, such as bread bags, fruit and veggie bags, chip bags, dog food bags and pasta bags or try lining it with old newspaper. If possible, use a compost bin – this can reduce the amount of waste in your rubbish bin by up to 50% and takes out the ‘wet’ messy waste in your bin.

  • If you recycle as much as you can and compost your food waste, there should be no need to line your bin at all.

  • Put your trash straight into your household bin and transfer this to your larger council trash bag as required. Give the bin a quick rinse afterwards and re-use the water on your garden.

  • While it’s good to recycle as many of your old newspapers as possible, you could keep a few sheets aside each week to wrap your trash or line your bin. This helps minimize mess and is a good alternative to plastic liners.


  1. What happens if I go to the store and don’t have my reusable bags?

  • In Phuket you will be able to buy them at, in many places subsidized or at cost prices

  1. Can I bring a box or plastic bags to carry out my groceries?

  • Absolutely! Consumers are encouraged to bring their own boxes or bags to carry out their purchases.

  1. Do I have to clean my bag?

  • Clean bags are healthy bags. Throwing your bags in with your regular laundry on a regular basis keeps them from becoming prone to bacteria growth, which can be harmful to you and your family.

  1. How sanitary are the recycle bags in the long run?

  • When kept clean on a regular basis, the bags are safe and sanitary. This is as easy as throwing them in the wash with your regular loads of laundry.

  1. Should I use biodegradable plastic bags?

  • Degradable bags require energy, water and materials in their production and are still used only once, so substituting billions of shopping bags with billions of degradable bags isn’t a great environmental outcome.

Using degradable shopping bags may promote littering as people may think the bags will break down in the environment no matter how they are disposed of.

Until degradable products actually break down they still pose the same danger as non-degradable plastic bags and hence have the same short term potential to harm wildlife and create litter problems.


thanks to:



Nostalgic for Plastic fantastic alternatives

Environmental topics like global warming, the need for recycling and the prospect of rubbish overwhelming the Earth seem to be very much on people’s minds. And it looks like solutions are a long way off. The use of cloth bags at grocery stores is an example. Even when used, vegetables, chillies, limes, pork, chicken and fish still go into separate bags before going into the cloth bag. Plastic in various forms is everywhere in our daily lives and the main reason for that is convenience.

In the past, most rubbish was biodegradable, and therefore recycled itself the natural way. Market purchases were put into banana leaf containers or paper bags made from folded newspaper.

Chinese cooks went to the market before dawn, travelling by bicycle or bus. They would bring big wicker baskets with handles. Fresh goods like pork, chicken and fish would be wrapped in banana leaf or lotus leaf by the vendor and then put into paper bags. These purchases were set on the bottom of the basket. Fresh produce did not have to be wrapped and could be placed on the top. When the basket became stained or dirty from use it could be washed and set out in the sun to dry.

When people in remote rural areas went to the market for meat or vegetables they did not have to bring along anything at all. The market vendor would have long, thin flexible strips of bamboo called tawk that could be threaded though the stems of vegetables, the jaws of fish, through cuts of meat, etc, to make a pendant bundle that was easy to carry home. If the tawk were not damaged they could be used at home as temporary twine.

Another way of carrying items bought at the market was, and in some areas still is, in a container called a chalawm, which is a round bamboo basket. They are woven into a cylindrical shape with a closed bottom and the loose strands gathered at the top to make a crude handle. It isn’t elegantly made, but it works well and can hold all kinds of goods. Egg vendors use them with a bit of rice straw at the bottom to protect the eggs from jarring.

In the past, people from the provinces used chalawm to carry clothing and blankets when they travelled. They didn’t last as long as baskets, but when they finally gave out they could be used as tinder to light charcoal in stoves.

When people made long trips they had to bring along food, and the ideal container for that was a pinto, a number of small, enamelled metal bowls that fit together vertically to form a stack, held together by a brace with a handle for carrying. It had a container for each kind of food, and was durable and easy to use. If an item had to be warmed, the container that held it could be taken out and put on the fire. When monks went out begging in the morning, they often carried both a bowl and a pinto that could be used to hold soupy or liquid foods.

Children would take a pinto to school, usually with only two bowls, one for rice and the other for the dish eaten with it. When they got home it was their responsibility to wash the pinto and leave it upside down on the shelf to dry.

The pinto never really went out of style. Today they have the same basic form but are made from different materials that retain heat and cold better, and are decorated with attractive designs. The trade-off is that they cost a lot more than the old enamelled ones did.

Many temples in the provinces still use pinto, to the point where they are one of the symbols associated with the ordination ceremony. Among the articles given to a new monk are his begging bowl, umbrella, shoulder bag, fan and a pinto.

Another carryover from the past is the simple cloth shoulder bag called a yam in Thai. It is a true classic of Thai culture, with uses for every day and every occasion. When children went to school they carried their books, pencils and notebooks in a yam, slung over the shoulder with a strap crossing the chest. It was soft, left their hands free and didn’t get in the way. Children in provincial areas can still be seen heading for school with their yam.

When village men went out into the fields or the forest they would carry a yam and an all-purpose piece of cloth called a pha khao ma, which was wrapped around the waist. The yam was used to carry basic provisions such as clothing, rice, chillies, salt and other necessary items.

When it was time to sleep the pha khao ma would serve as a mat and the yam as a pillow.

All of these things are examples of old-style items used in daily life that, if restored today would contribute to stemming the flood-tide of rubbish that is overtaking us. As they are biodegradable, they recycle themselves naturally. What’s more, the old-style baskets, chalawm, yam and other items to carry goods and personal belongings can be made cheaply at home.

Sometimes the past can point the best way for the future.

K Suthon Sukpisit is a former outlook staff member and now retired, who writes on food and cooking for the Bangkok post.






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